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Coronavirus in Schuylkill County

Clerk of Courts Calls for “Immediate Audit” of Schuylkill CARES Act Spending

maria casey full audit schuylkill county cares act

One Schuylkill County elected official is calling for an “immediate audit” of the Commissioners use of the CARES Act funding it received earlier this year.

Schuylkill County Clerk of Courts Maria Casey sent out social media messages on Facebook:

and on Twitter, retweeting one of our tweets, each calling for an audit of the Schuylkill County Commissioners spending of the $12.7 million received in CARES Act funding this summer:

Schuylkill County Official Calls for Full Audit on CARES Act Spending

This call for an intervention from the Pennsylvania Auditor General comes after Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevich last week questioned reports about our county’s use of that $12.7 million largess.

“Bring on the auditors,” Lukasevich wrote in a social media post. “Something just isn’t right over there.”

Lukasevich questioned another local media outlet’s report on Schuylkill County’s plan to use at least $6 million to plug a shortfall in the 2021 budget. Per guidance on using the CARES Act funding from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development, using CARES Act money in this way is forbidden.

Schuylkill County had planned to use that money to purchase equipment, service, and support for an upgrade to our 9-1-1 emergency communications system. The county called it the “broadband project” but in reality, it brought broadband technology only to the 9-1-1 system and not the public.

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Our recent report showed that at least 10 other Pennsylvania counties actually did use its CARES Act share to expand access to broadband internet to their residents.

The way Schuylkill County has blown through its CARES Act money has been the source of much scrutiny since they started deciding to spend it. Budget shortfalls and 9-1-1 equipment are just some of the questionable expenses. The county also bought a new HVAC system for Schuylkill County Prison and touchless toilet flushers, sink faucets, and water fountains using this money.

Very little – less than 10% – was given in grants to small businesses, non-profit organizations, and municipalities. And Schuylkill County Commissioners never formally announced the grant program. Instead, it first suggested interested business owners contact the County Administrator during an off-the-cuff comment at a Commissioners meeting. Then, when it was finally backed into a grant program, the Commissioners foisted the task of announcing the program off on local business special interest groups.

Schuylkill County only recently awarded the grants to parties that applied but has not disclosed why some businesses were chosen and others were denied grants.

These recent reports, including Casey’s call for a full audit of Schuylkill County CARES Act spending should make for interesting conversation at Wednesday’s regular Commissioners public meeting. That happens on Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.

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Below, you’ll find an agenda for that meeting. Here’s the call-in information for the public to listen to Wednesday’s meeting:

  • Dial 1-301-715-8592
  • Enter the Meeting ID: 942 6387 7707 followed by the (3) pound sign.
  • When prompted, enter the Passcode: 331130
12-9-20 Agenda

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  1. TheTruth

    December 9, 2020 at 8:35 am

    I’m glad to see them being checked. It was also reported here on the Canary that they were also going to use CARES Act funds to upgrade the bathrooms in the court house. Probably another thing that’s forbidden?
    These funds are meant for the community and our local small businesses. Not add to the personal luxuries they already have in the court house while they let our businesses and community suffer.

    • Canary Commenter

      December 9, 2020 at 10:13 am

      To borrow a famous Tom Wolf line: “We’re not a lawyer” but it appears the bathroom expense and the prison HVAC system would qualify as legit expenses under the CARES Act rules as they’re direct responses to the COVID. Smart expenses? We won’t go that far. But they seem to be covered.

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